Greenhouse grower offers new premium variety snacking tomato

New cherry tomatoes on-the-vine from British Columbia & California

Greenhouse cherry tomatoes on the vine have made their way into first commercial production in British Columbia and California. They’re a premium variety offering available to snacking tomato lovers on North America’s west coast. 

Commercial volume & year-round offering
Delights Cherries on the Vine are the newest part of Houwelings’ signature selection of premium snacking tomatoes. According to David Bell, the premium line is similar to the European/UK model of tiered product offerings (good, better, best) and bespoke varietals where consumers can track the product and understand that they’re getting consistency every time. First test plantings were done in the British Columbia greenhouse last year. This season the company planted in January and ramped up to commercial volume. "We will continue until the end of November with California offering year-round production." 

Premium varietal, consistent flavor
The on-the-vine presentation is what Bell says is a clear visual differentiation for the consumer, compared to that of a loose cherry type that has a broader (less consistent) flavor profile amongst the brand offerings in the market. “When you look at a loose cherry in the grocery store, it’s small, round and red and it could be a great tasting variety or it could be the opposite; something that’s not delivering much of a value proposition for taste,” he says. “As you get into on-the-vine products there’s that exclusivity to greenhouse growing and also the concentration that (goes into) selecting varietals – with that premium offering you need to ensure that quality and consistency is there. Otherwise we lose trust with the consumer.”

Premium & core branded offerings
Snacking varieties are in Houwelings’ premium or ‘best’ tier of products. “Sometimes at the beginning of the crop the flavor takes time to build so we’ve got internal standards that if our product doesn’t’ meet those we won’t pack them in our premium label,” he says. In their larger California operation, they grow both premium and core branded offerings. “We’re a bit more diversified down there and have a larger breadth of costumers who are looking for premium and also those looking for value. Critical to us is that our value offering is in the ‘better’ tier where taste still matters. Compared to a pure kilo value offering tomato we don’t play in that arena.”

Differentiation for grocery stores is in the produce department
From a retailer perspective, Bell has noticed a much greater focus on commodity sources and matching up retailers with suppliers who have very transparent lines of sight as to where the product is coming from. “I really think that’s indicative of where we are and that’s a trend in North America not just in Canada. Certainly in brick and mortar retail – specifically in grocery – the opportunity to differentiate is in the produce department.” He believes stores are getting eroded by online shopping but does feel there is still a greater percentage of consumers who like going to the store to specifically select their own produce. 

When it comes to introducing a new variety, Bell says that ultimately what tastes great from one greenhouse may not work in another, an important factor to consider when consistency is key. The genetics of a varietal is one component and the other is husbandry. You need a commitment from your growing team to produce a certain level and that will come at the cost of yield. Your yield-flavor ratio is related. We haven’t seen that (ultimate) variety out there yet, but we’re all looking for the one that has huge kilos and excellent taste.” Delights cherries on the vine will be showcased at Houwelings’ booth #115 at CPMA. Stop by for a visit.

For more information:
David Bell
Tel: (604) 946-0844

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